If you give a moose an upgrade…

She’ll realize it breaks most of her WordPress plugins.

So then she’ll troubleshoot for an hour before she decides to figure it out another day.

But before she logs off, she’ll see that some of her blogroll links are broken, too.

So she’ll get down to work cleaning out the all those bloggers who return 404 pages. (Sniff!)

And while she’s at it, she’ll correct all the changed URLs for bloggers who’ve moved! (Hooray! New sites!)

But not before an evil, ruthless, bushwhacking urge comes upon her! (Grrrrrrrrr…)

She’ll brutally SLASH AND BURN all those links that don’t link back to her. (“Bwa ha!”)

(Some sites she’ll leave up anyway — for unknown reasons — unless it has something to do with bloggers in the possession of certain compromising photos.)

At that point she’ll start feeling guilty.

She’ll worry she might have deleted somebody who DID link to her, who wasn’t returning a 404 page, and who never, ever blackmailed her.

She’ll resolve to ask their forgiveness but also to tell them to contact Her Mooshishness IMMEDIATELY so she can relink to them again.

And after all this toil, she’ll notice that many other aspects of her site require some major updating in order to work properly — but that’s when she’ll just pick up her moose-sized rear end and go shovel down a muffin.

Make that TWO muffins.

MIA, moi?

Thanks to the fires I got a week off from work. I used it wisely: gallivanting about the internet, my first chance in a good while.

I was ever so happy to see April continuing her Domingo Delicioso. YOU GO, APRIL!!!

I was hoping to find that Miss Snark had decided to come back, but alas. At least this Janet Reid gal seems like a good, emergency backup kind of snark.

And then I discovered this post:

Of late, I’ve seen signs of fatigue from a number of high-profile bloggers who are taking blog vacations, begging for guest bloggers to take their normal place, or in some cases, the bloggers are choosing to keep us updated in other ways – preferring Twitter or other venues.

Three quick examples: Jason Calacanis, Robert Scoble and Bonnie Wren.

Are Leading Bloggers Getting Blog Fatigue?” at LouisGray.com

Woo hoo! Did you see that? Me! A high profile blogger!

Okay, so this post was made some time ago, but let’s just focus on how the discerning and insightful Louis Gray included me within the same sentence as Jason Calacanis and Robert Scoble! I mean, Mr. Scoble and I were separated in that sentence by a mere three letters!

Oooh. Ah.

So. “Blog Fatigue.” I think my absence would be better described as “Poor Time Management.”

Now that I’ve got a paying job, I find it awfully hard to do all the stuff I’m supposed to do, much less all the fluff that constituted my blogging career.

I mean, I don’t know how it happened but Super Sabado got to the point that it took all day to do. So Saturday would be Super Sabado, and then I’d spend all day Sunday to do Monday Morning Mojo, and after that I could barely get through the rest of the week.

People like Bernita Harris, man, they can put OUT. She posts thoughtful, eloquent posts DAILY. And she comments everywhere, too. Trying to keep up with Bernita’s output almost KILLED me.

Even worse, I found everyone else so interesting that I lost hours and hours reading about all their adventures and forgot to have any adventures myself.

So I’ve been wondering: would Ballpoint Wren be the same if I spent less time on it?

And the answer is no, because I can no longer spend the time I used to spend on it.

I mean, I can still do Ballpoint Wren, but it will be different. At least for a while, anyway.

Cleaning up

Ashy Mailboxes

This is a picture of our friends’ beach house mailboxes on Tuesday morning. Ash is no longer falling like snowflakes. What a relief to be able to breathe! Still, when we first drove into the cul-de-sac, ash splashed up from car tires just like water splashing up from a puddle.

Home Depot sold out of air masks Monday night but those little masks really weren’t as helpful as you might think. My sister said after working in horse paddocks and smoke that the inside of her mask was even dirtier than the outside. Little air masks are better than nothing but you need a special kind of filtered mask to protect your lungs in conditions like that.

Those of us lucky enough to be able to come home were eager to clean up. Sweeping your front yard is never so enjoyable as it is when you realize how lucky you are to still have a front yard to sweep.

As we cleaned, we compared evacuation notes with our neighbors. Doug and Carla stayed in Newport Beach where they got a good deal at a motel willing to let them bring in their cats. There was some kind of unexplained rate hike before they left, though. They ate lunch at Fashion Island when a man sat down next to them — it was fellow refugee Emedio from one house down.

Another neighbor called to say he was staying another day in Palm Desert before bringing his family home, as they have serious asthma. Rich and Helena remained at the beach house, but they were there already anyway because of the construction being done on their house. And we haven’t heard from Mike and his wife. They’re probably still at the coast hotel that let them bring their dogs.

Ashy Mailboxes

Most of us swept up our yards with brooms, wearing masks or wet rags tied on our heads, but some neighbors used vacuums, presumably to keep the ash down. I don’t know if that works, but I saw plenty of people doing it. I think there’s some merit in it, because my experience with the broom blew up a lot of ash clouds no matter how careful I was.

If I see a gardener using a blower, I think I’ll tackle him.

Thanks to everyone for all your prayers because they really made a difference. This fire season is bigger than the 2003 Cedar Fires, but there’ve been fewer fatalities so far, I think because of the aggressive evacuation policy.

Didi’s husband feels it was too aggressive and unnecessary, but I don’t think so. I think it saved lives.

Back home!

At 4 pm or so they lifted the voluntary evacuation order for our neighborhood and we came back to sleep in our house. I was so glad! Something interesting: even though the house was tightly closed, all the floors and surfaces have a thin dusting of ash.

Information is still kind of confusing and contradictory. Everybody complains about it on our local talk radio stations, that there is no clear cut information about what’s going on but really, there is a LOT more information available than there was during the October 21, 1996 Harmony Grove fire. It’s just not always definitive news, but it’s there.

This is a screen capture of our area just before they lifted the voluntary evacuation order. The orange is the burn perimeter, and the yellow is the evacuation perimeter. I put a blue dot over our neighborhood:

Map 1

And this is the same map this morning, again, our neighborhood with the blue dot. The yellow area is now called the “Witch Fire and Poomacha Estimated Evacuation” as of 11 pm last night. Apparently the two fires merged this morning. Sorry about the increase in map size; for some reason I couldn’t make it the same size it was last night.

Map 1

As you can see, it looks a bit more threatening than it did at 4 pm yesterday but the skies are clearer than they were, so I think perhaps the map is off a bit. It’s now almost 9:30 am 10/24 and they haven’t updated the map, either.

Here’s a link to the map itself. Posting it here just slows the page down.

Here are some more resources for anyone who is out of town and worried about friends and family in this area:

The cats are locked in a bathroom at the beach house…

… but Mojo gets to look at the view.

Mojo at Moonlight Beach

Last night passed without incident for us, probably the luckiest of any Southern California evacuees. I’m telling you, if you have to be displaced from your home, there’s nothing like being displaced into a lovely beach house in Encinitas.

Whether or not our cul-de-sac needed to evacuate is up for grabs, though. We got an automated phone call telling us everyone in Olivenhain had to leave, but we don’t live in Olivenhain. We live in southeast Carlsbad, just over the Olivenhain border. So did the call mean we had to leave, too, or only that the Reverse-911 machine thought it was calling Olivenhain?

And then a cop drove through our cul-de-sac with a bullhorn and announced it would be better for us to go. That’s when I called up Hubby and asked him to meet us at our friends’ beach house.

We didn’t evacuate during the Harmony Grove fire even when it rolled right down to the street behind our house. We assumed if we were in any real danger that we’d be alerted by the authorities, so we stayed put. Later we learned NOBODY had been warned due to lack of resources and we vowed we would never be so complacent again.

But once we were at the beach house I wondered if I’d jumped the gun. The news and internet only provided conflicting opinions. Yes, it is a mandatory evacuation area. No, it’s only an advisory evacuation area. Wait a minute, it IS a mandatory evacuation area. Nope, it’s only an advisory evacuation area. Who do you believe?

I felt very guilty watching all the people on TV who definitely HAD to evacuate because the fire was beating down their front doors. There they are, crammed into the Encinitas Senior Center or Qualcomm Stadium while Mojo and I enjoy the view of Moonlight Beach.

And then there were people like my sister and brother-in-law who actually did some good during the fire besides hide out at the beach. They helped evacuate horses. All I did was sit in a cushy arm chair and search Craigslist for horse trailers for her. God bless cell phones and the internet, that’s all I can say.

This morning we checked on the house and it was fine. The fire didn’t even cross into Olivenhain. I’d guestimate about a third of our neighbors were back in their homes already, if they ever left.

I grabbed Great Grandmother’s milkmaid creamer just in case, wrapped it up in a beach towel and stuffed it into the van. I also got Hubby some clothes and his razor. Now we’re all at Hubby’s work, where the air is filtered and it’s easier to breathe. There’s a new fire just northeast of us

I want to thank all of our brave fire fighters and support staff and people like my sister and brother-in-law. You guys are my heroes.

Bloody Sunset

Smoky Sunset at Moonlight Beach

We’re luckier than most evacuees, that’s for sure. We’re in our friends’ house, a beautiful home close to Moonlight Beach. I figure if any flames come close, I’ll just grab the Mojonator and a Boogie board and head for the surf. Hubby and the boys can take care of themselves.

And even though I was the first one in the cul-de-sac to pack I am kicking myself about all the stuff I had to leave behind. Stuff I didn’t pack on purpose, because there’s only so much the van can hold, and stuff I just forgot to pack.

Didi waited till the last minute to pack. Her daughter shouted at me as I loaded the dog water bowl into our van: “You know what Mom just loaded into the car? Her CURLERS.”

Heh. Like I should talk. Some of the high-priority, irreplaceable stuff that made it into the van includes about a month supply of feminine hygiene products. I may have forgotten Great Grandmother’s milkmaid creamer but BY GOD I HAVE MY TAMPONS.

Squirt loaded up all his guitars and CDs. I’m not sure what Tiger packed. I haven’t looked. I didn’t even check to see if he loaded a toothbrush. I wonder if they’ve got clean underwear in their bags. Probably not.

I got all our photo negatives, our hard drives containing our digital photos, and all the genealogical stuff. I got our passports and birth certs and insurance papers. That’s good, all good. But I forgot the milkmaid creamer.

Oh. And I packed Hubby’s protein powder. He’ll appreciate that, considering how I didn’t pack him any clothes.

This is how we all look, running around with rags on our faces:

Women walking with bandannas so they can breathe

Bloody Sun

Bloody Sun Over Olivenhain

The phone circuits are busy, so this message is for all of our family and friends who may be worried: we are safe and have a place to go if need be, either to Hubby’s work or to a friend’s house at the beach.

At 6:30 am or so we got the call to be ready to evacuate if necessary. Some of our friends living closer to fire spots have been evacuated; a family we know living in San Elijo Hills had to leave at 4:00 am. My boss in Olivenhain was told to leave over an hour ago, and she’s only a mile from our house as the crow flies.

My sister and brother-in-law are going to help a friend evacuate her horse. If we have to leave we’re going to pick up one of Squirt’s friends in Encinitas who is home alone now and take her with us.

This map shows you which areas have to be evacuated due to constantly changing conditions. We are within the evacuation area, but the radio says we are not. It’s a little confusing.

Map of evacuations as of 10:40 am

During the Harmony Grove fire we could actually see flames. Today the wind is stronger than I’ve ever seen it, though. The smell of smoke is strong, too, but we haven’t yet seen the big clots of ash and embers that fell during the Harmony Grove fire. Lots of soot and ash, but not big handfuls. Not yet!

In that fire we could see all the planes and helicopters fighting the fire. Back then they flew so low we could see their faces. Sometimes they even waved back when we waved at them. Now the only thing you hear and see is the wind and the smoke. No aircraft to help us now because the wind is too strong.

We loaded up the cars just in case we need to move fast: all our photos, our genealogical documents, home insurance, tax paperwork, etc. The cats are in their carriers in Tiger’s car, and we put Mojo’s crate in the van.

I told the boys we’re probably going to be unpacking very soon and I really think we will. But it’s easier to unpack a car than to file insurance claims.

Long time, no see… or read… or visit…

I’m experimenting with NEW TECHNOLOGY: video-blogging!

  • I filmed with our iMac’s iSight webcam.
  • I didn’t do it in one take; hence, the variations in lighting.
  • Anybody I forgot to mention, sorry! My cranium is rapidly losing brain function. Also, the first draft was about an hour long and I had to edit it down. I am the most incoherently verbose woman on the planet.
  • Kristen was one gal I didn’t want to edit out, but her Chaos god did the job for me and I didn’t realize until I uploaded it. You were in there, Kristen, I swear!
  • It’s actually 2 jobs I’ve got, but you all know how Kristen’s Chaos gods love to muck things up.

Here’s the link for feed readers.

Links: April, Bernita, M.G. TARKWEENI, Miss Karen, Secret Squirrel, Corn Dog, Welshcakes, Karen Ranney. I probably forgot somebody in this list, too.

To discover all the people I mentioned in my first draft: see the blogroll to the right. I’m telling you: my first draft was AN HOUR LONG, people.

And thanks to my Sissy for checking it out to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself any more than usual.

The Right to Remain Silent in Bathroom Fixtures, Aisle 7

My old hand-held showerhead was a champ. It outlasted one dishwasher, two refrigerators, three cooktops and four kitchen faucets. Hubby and I weren’t the only ones using it, either: for several years it was the power tool I used to scrub the boys squeaky-clean — until the sad day they realized they could outrun me.

Now they’re lots stinkier than they were back when I was in charge of hosing them down. I think my old showerhead died of despair.

I needed a new one, but the Home Depot guy was getting kind of personal about it.

“Before I can recommend a hand-held model, I need to know something,” he said. “What do you DO in your shower?”

“Hunh? I, uh … I … shower… in the shower.”


It was just such a weird question. What do people do with hand-held showerheads in showers besides shower? Before I knew it, I was blushing.

“I, uh … I … wash the dog! Really!”

“Umm hmmm?”

He wanted more?

“I … I use the hand-held to wash the shower walls down!”

“Ummm hmmmm?”

“And, I, um, shower?”

He looked at me carefully. “Do you shave your legs?”

I didn’t know this guy from Adam, and here he was quizzing me about my hygiene. I crossed my arms in front of my chest. Just then the store air conditioners went off — the heat radiating off my face probably tripped the thermostat.

“Um, yeah, well, yeah. I do that, too.”

Satisfied, he turned. “Okay. Then I recommend these models over here.” He waved at a small selection in the corner of the display. “Anything else I can help you with?”

I shook my head, even though I was also supposed to get a new toilet seat. There’s only so much grilling a woman can take at the hardware store.

My Chicharones

I was sweating like the proverbial porker. Crammed into a tiny dressing room with a 75-watt bulb set on stun, I attempted to stuff my hams into a casing the locals call a wetsuit.

“It’s supposed to fit tight,” Witt called out from behind the door. “Like a second skin.”

Second skin my chicharones. This baby was tighter than my first skin, twenty pounds ago. The truth is, wetsuits are nothing but full-body pantyhose on steroids.

I cracked open the dressing room door. “Where are my kids?”

“See for yourself!” Witt said proudly, indicating two neoprene-clad figures bouncing alongside the rash guards. Not only did the boys squeak into their wetsuits at Warp 8, they could move freely in them.

My wetsuit wasn’t past my knees yet but I could already tell I wouldn’t do much more than waddle once I got it on.

“Uh,” I told Witt, “I need more time.”

He understood. “No problem,” he said. “Hey, boys, want some free stickers for your boards?”

I liked that guy. In fact, I was trying on his wetsuits because of his friendly and knowledgeable attitude. (Translation: he was the first surf shop salesman I met older than the used wetsuits he was selling.)

Ten minutes later I was slick with perspiration, but the wetsuit refused to budge past my hips. Defeat was imminent.

I cracked the door open again. “Witt, I’m just too big to boogie board.”

You would’ve thought I uttered a foul heresy. “No,” Witt said grimly. “I won’t believe it. Mind if I take a look?”

I guess I didn’t. The lower part of me was squished into the world’s largest girdle. The upper was still modestly covered by my swimsuit. And Witt is a pretty decent guy, like a friendly big brother surfer, if you happen to have one.

I opened the door and he examined my semi-metamorphosed state: half-woman, half-wetsuit.

“Not bad!” he crowed. “You got farther than most first-timers.”

“Really?” I felt better immediately.

“Sure! Now pull that flap up over your left knee.”

I pulled. He pointed out another flap and I jerked on that one. I sweated, pulled and jerked with his step-by-step coaching until I wrenched into the arms.

Unfortunately, I was stuck in a crouched position, unable to straighten up.

“It’s hopeless,” I insisted.

“There’s only one way to do this,” he answered, and I knew what he meant. Swallowing my modesty, I grabbed the doorpost with both hands.

“Pardon me,” said Witt, and grabbed the fold of neoprene hanging south of my derriere. He pulled hard — both my feet flew right off the floor.

Sepia portrait of Aunt Lottie
My Great Aunt Lottie probably would not have approved of wetsuits.

My great Aunt Lottie performed a similar maneuver in order to lace her customers into corsets. As they sucked in their breath, they could read the crewel sampler hanging on her dress shop wall: “What the Lord hath forgotten, we shall fill out with cotton.”

In the case of my rear end, the Lord hath remembered too much.

I replanted my feet. “Ready!”

He jerked again and I was completely in the suit. Contrary to my expectations, I could move.

I made my way to the rash guards, where the boys stopped frolicking to look me over. All that rubber-coated activity, and they still looked as cool as cucumbers.

“Yeah! Mom!” said the oldest. My youngest took some time before he finally nodded. “Cool!”

High praise, coming from the Style Kings of Carlsbad.

“I’ll take it!” I said.

That afternoon the three of us boogied in the surf, me blessing Witt with every wave I caught. If you can package your bacon for the beach, you can do anything.